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Tag Archives: Katharine Hepburn

Desk Set

Image credit: Desk Set, 1957

I’ve got a question for EMERAC—which 1950s film starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy will put me in a retro holiday mood? The answer, of course, is Desk Set (Disc/Download), the delightful romantic comedy written by Nora Ephron’s parents Phoebe and Henry. If it’s one thing the Ephron family understands, it’s how to make smart people fall in love.

If you’ve never seen this movie before, you might be shocked to learn that in the days before Google, actual humans were employed to answer mundane trivia questions from the general population. As reference librarian Bunny Watson, Hepburn looks perfectly at home surrounded by books, speaking authoritatively into a telephone. However, her peaceful workplace is soon disrupted by the arrival of Spencer Tracy and his living room-sized computer. EMERAC threatens both Bunny’s job and her pride when, due to a severe lack of communication, she and her co-workers start to worry the men upstairs will replace them all with a machine. Can Bunny save her status as the leading human computer? Will she ever get a chance to wear that gorgeous green dress from Bonwit Teller’s? WILL SHE MAKE IT TO THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY?? Watch and learn the answers to these burning questions.

Speaking of questions, one in particular came up while I was watching this film. Spencer Tracy’s character Richard seems awfully excited to be served something called “Floating Island”. Not having a reference librarian of my own to call up, I turned to Google to find out what this dish is. Turns out, it’s straight out of a Julia Child cookbook, and can be easily modified into a cocktail. While watching Desk Set, I recommend drinking an Eggnog Floating Island.

Eggnog Floating Island

3 oz store-bought Eggnog (I used Trader Joe’s oat milk version)

¾ oz Dark spiced rum

¾ oz Brandy

2 cups milk

For Meringue:

3 large egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ground Nutmeg (for garnish)

Edible Glitter (for garnish)

  • Combine eggnog with dark rum and brandy, pour into martini glass, and place in the fridge to chill.
  • Pour milk into a skillet, and turn on the heat to simmer.
  • Next, make the meringues. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until they hold stiff peaks. Add sugar slowly, beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  • Scoop some (about the size of an egg) onto a spoon. Drop into the simmering milk on the stovetop, and cook for 2 minutes, turning meringue over halfway through. Repeat with as many other meringue scoops as you want.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer poached meringue to a clean towel, then onto a wax-lined sheet. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
  • Once the meringues have cooled and set, place one poached meringue on top of the eggnog in your martini glass. Dust with ground nutmeg and edible glitter. Serve with a small spoon.

I admit, this cocktail is a little more involved than I normally care to get. However, the holidays are always a good time to try out new recipes you don’t have time for the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re not up for anything complicated, you can always just pass a bottle of bubbly around like these boozy librarians—I’ll never tell. Cheers, and happy holidays from Cinema Sips!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Image credit: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.

This week marks yet another Thanksgiving for Cinema Sips, and although in the past we’ve covered cinema feasts such as those in The Godfather and Giant, I really don’t feel like cooking this year. Luckily, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Disc/Download) features no actual dinner; only cocktails.  In other words, my kind of party!

Made in 1967 during the height of the civil rights movement, this final Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film collaboration features Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white, upper-class daughter of two liberals who have difficulty practicing what they preach.  Sure, they proudly proclaim that African Americans should have equal rights, but when their daughter gets off a plane from Hawaii with a handsome black doctor, those beliefs become complicated.  Directed by Stanley Kramer, this richly drawn film presents all sides to the debate of love vs. societal prejudice.  The daughter (played by Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) comes across as naïve, but with a pure heart untouched by prejudice and hate.  And isn’t that what we all wish for?  That kids would never have to hear ugly racist words, and never be faced with a “pigmentation problem” as Tracy puts it. This girl has found the perfect man, one who’s handsome, smart, and respectful, and looks ever-so-charming with a daisy behind his ear.  I’d say that’s worth fighting a few bigots for.

As this dinner party at a San Francisco mansion grows to include the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the central couple, and a priest, the bar cart gets some heavy use. Meanwhile, the sassy maid is hiding in the kitchen with her cauldron of turtle soup, wondering why these crazy people won’t sit down and eat something.  Let’s take our lead from the moms in this movie, those sensible moms with a preference for sherry and young love.  While watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, I recommend drinking a Sherry Cobbler.

Sherry Cobbler

3 ½ oz Sherry

½ oz simple syrup

2 orange slices

2 lemon slices

Cranberries for garnish

Combine simple syrup and one slice each of orange and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle oranges, then add sherry and ice.  Shake well, until chilled.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh orange slice, lemon slice and fresh cranberries.

Sherry Cobbler

As I write this post, many dinner tables across America are still deeply divided.  There is a chasm between young and old, liberal and conservative, much as there was over fifty years ago in this movie.  Equal rights are still a dream we’re fighting for, but as this movie shows us, it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it to stand up to your elders and say love is all that matters; hate has no place at the table.  Cheers!

The Philadelphia Story

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Philadelphia Story

I am so excited this week to write about one of my favorite films from the golden age of Hollywood, The Philadelphia Story. One of the reasons this is a favorite of mine is not just because of its sparkling dialogue, beautiful art deco sets, and long langorous cocktail hours of a wealthy Philadelphia family, but rather because it stars one of my all-time favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart. In a strange coincidence, I was actually born and raised in Jimmy Stewart’s hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. However, I like to think I would have been a fan even if our ancestors hadn’t shared the same zip code once upon a time. The Philadelphia Story was actually the film that won Stewart his only acting Academy Award in 1941, and it’s easy to see why. His performance as writer Macaulay “Mike” Connor is just marvelous.

The other two big stars of this film are Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn plays a divorced Philadelphia socialite who’s engaged to be married once again. Her ex-husband (played by Grant) comes to see her the day before the wedding, bringing along two reporters who are there to cover the wedding, but really do little more than get under Hepburn’s skin. Hepburn and Grant’s verbal sparring is masterful, however it is truly Jimmy Stewart as a reporter who steals the show (and for a time, Hepburn’s heart). He breezes into all of his scenes, tall and lanky and charming, offering up the absolute best one liners. I swear, every time I watch him ask the librarian at a Quaker library “Dost thou have a washroom?” I get the giggles. This is also a great film for cocktail pairings because Grant has a long history with whiskey, and Hepburn and Stewart have a booze and moonlight-fueled tryst by the swimming pool. They break into the wedding champagne a touch early, giving Jimmy Stewart a chance to really show his acting chops as a happy drunk.

When I watch this film, so many cocktail opportunities come to mind. On one hand, I’d love to mix up a batch of Uncle Willie’s Stingers, however with so much bubbly flowing, I’ve got to go with a classic champagne cocktail. This week, I’m serving up a drink called Cinderella’s Slipper (the name’s origin will become obvious about halfway through the movie).

CinderellasSlipper

Cinderella’s Slipper

1 Sugar Cube

2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters

1 oz Brandy

Champagne

Orange peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute. Use the dashes of Angostura bitters to saturate the sugar cube. Add the brandy. As you fill the flute with champagne, the sugar cube will dissolve. Garnish with orange peel.

This drink typically calls for a maraschino cherry as a garnish in the bottom of the flute, but I like to think that Hepburn’s character Tracy Lord would never do anything so gauche. Sip this as you watch Jimmy Stewart carry Katharine Hepburn around in his fluffy white robe, and I dare you to not chime in when he starts drunkenly shouting “Oh C.K. Dexter Haaaaven!” This film is classic Hollywood screwball comedy at its best, and I for one plan on watching it, champagne flute in hand, while imagining what it must have been like to be Katharine Hepburn back then. Cary Grant on my right arm, Jimmy Stewart on my left. Not exactly a terrible place to be. Cheers!

Drawing by Christopher Locke

Drawing by Christopher Locke